THIS PLAYER HANDBOOK IS A LIVING DOCUMENT AND WILL BE SUBJECT TO IMPROVEMENTS AND CHANGES AS THE FICTITIOUS WORLD GROWS, WE AS ORGANISERS LEARN, AND TO ADD CLARITY AND AMENDMENTS AS NECESSARY.
What is Oxford University of Magic: The Conclave?
Join the World of Magic
Oxford University of Magic: The Conclave is a live action roleplaying game [LARP] set in a world just like ours, except for one thing – magic is real. People with magical powers, commonly known as witchards, live among us, hidden from the mundane population. They have organised themselves into communities called Confluxes, each with their own culture and laws. Within each conflux there are mystical societies, known throughout the magical world for their secrecy, academic excellence, and for being pioneers in magical research, experimentation, and modernising the face of magic. During this game you will play a member of one of these societies, coming together with other renowned magical experts at an annual conference to present the best that magic can be, all at one of the most revered and famous institutions across the witcharding world: Oxford University of Magic.
At the University
During the LARP you will take on the role of one of the members of a magical society that has been chosen by the conflux it resides within as a representative at Oxford University of Magic’s famous gala conference event, ‘The Conclave.’ The University plays host to nine different ‘delegations’ at each Conclave, including its own delegation of undergraduate students who have the honour of hosting as well as participating in the conference. This conference is both a networking opportunity for the best and brightest of the magical world, and also a place to show off new research techniques, academic prowess, and of course to vie to be the society honoured to win ‘The Prospero Prize’. The nine delegations for the debut game have been pre-written and we hope to expand the world over time so players can create their own delegations that will be ‘invited’ to join The Conclave. As well as being a member of a magical society invited to the conference, your character will also have the opportunity to be part of a number of different secret clubs or movements that will help determine their intentions, their motivations, and ultimately their decisions. You can read more about the magical societies delegated to The Conclave for this game in the Delegations section, and more on character creation in our Preparing for the LARP section.
Before the LARP, you will be assigned a Delegation to be a part of and some character suggestions based on your casting choices using the Crucible casting feature of the Witchards website. You are encouraged to write your character yourself, using given prompts and a template, and the opportunity to work with organisers to add to parts of your character’s backstory to increase the playability of your character, and to introduce more plot into the game. If you do not want to write your own character and would prefer to be provided with one, or help to collaborate on a character, that option is also available by getting in touch with the organisers. See more in Characters and Casting.
You will also be able to connect with other participants in advance and find friends, rivals and other relations for your character. You are free to prepare as much or as little as you like with other players in terms of your character – the most important thing is that your character is fun and meaningful to play for you. You can read more in the Playing Styles section.
Whilst character pregame is completely optional for this game, there is a level of preparation required before the game starts, that depends on coordinating with your fellow players in your delegation to create the presentations you’ll be hosting ingame at the event. If you have played a game produced by Witchards before, such as Bothwell School of Witchcraft or College of Wizardry, you may have played a staff member or prefect at one of those games, and we equate the level of pregame preparation to playing one of those characters. If you have not, you may have seen some of the work involved in these roles, or played something similar in a different game, such as a faction leader, captain of the guard, or town sheriff. You will, alongside your fellow society delegates, need to prepare the content and delivery of presentations that can take any form, and more information on how to do this is covered in Society Presentations. You will not need to plan things like booking rooms or when you’ll present, as the organisers will schedule the ingame programme based on all the presentations submitted.
Oxford University of Magic: The Conclave tells the story of a three day magical convention for Witchard adults. There will be a wide programme of events throughout the convention, provided by both organisers and players, where characters will take part in workshops, panels, lectures, activities and research seminars that are hosted by the university professors, guest lecturers & celebrity panelists, and by each of the invited delegations themselves as well.
As well as meeting like-minded Witchards, demonstrating your own skills, and learning from your peers, there is an added element of The Conclave that motivates all its invitees: The Prospero Prize. Delegations are tasked with awarding points to the other invited societies based on their presentations, networking, and dedication to the future of magic, and the delegation with the highest count will win this coveted title, as well as taking home the famous Ring of Merlin for custodianship until the next meeting of The Conclave. Presentations for the conference are created, and therefore points are awarded to each delegation, based on performance in three different categories, known as ‘Tracks’.
The three Tracks that make up the point-awarding categories are the three most highly regarded educational standards in witcharding society: These three tracks are Aesthetics, Academia, & Dominion. Every known conflux in the magical world places emphasis, importance and pride on these three pillars, and all subjects taught, business presided over, political rulings, and societal structures are injected with elements of each tenet in order to maintain civilised society, progress the power of magic, and enjoy the wondrous gift of life and love.
Aesthetics embodies the artistic side of life and studies. Aesthetics can be demonstrated through art, poetry, theatre, music, dance, comedy and any other expressive and kinaesthetic form. Encompass the joyful, evocative, and healing powers of art by adding a performative element to your presentations, or focus on performance as the backbone of the storytelling in one of your workshops. You could have people sing their seminar contributions, discuss how you’ve proven the theory that comedy helps you live longer, or even have one of your workshops focus on using interpretive dance as the somatic component of rituals. The Aesthetic Track places much value in inclusivity, camaraderie, friendship, healing, and expression.
Academia is the track that believes in the merit of practical and quantifiable education through traditional research, modernisation through learning from history, and development through trial and error. Using lectures, papers, hand outs, books, proven research, and solid evidence one can demonstrate their reliability, perseverance, and dedication to the progress of magic in an ever-changing world.
Dominion is the belief that political prowess and power hold the key to success. Those proficient in spoken word, interpersonal skills, and debating perform very well in the Dominion field, and display their knowledge and work using successful negotiation, being able to read and convince people, and collaboration with others. Dominion holds importance in history, philosophy, and socio-economics, and is usually displayed using debates, Q&A panels, workshop activities, and hands on demonstrations with detailed explanation and the ability to answer questions.
The Prospero Prize
The Prospero Prize is awarded at the end of the Conclave Closing Ball after the final count of the points awarded by each delegation to each other based on their presentation offerings to the convention, networking and camaraderie, and how the three tracks of witcharding education are executed and demonstrated throughout the conference. The winning society of the Prospero Prize is awarded custodianship of the much coveted Ring of Merlin, which is theirs to look after, protect, study, and draw magic & inspiration from for the following year. The winning society is also automatically invited to the next year’s Conclave, and will return the Ring at the beginning of next year’s conference. The Ring is presented by the Mystery of Oxford University, and it is they who hold this position that have ultimate custody of the ring (see more in History of Oxford University of Magic.) They will have it in their possession during The Conclave until it is awarded, and can ask for its return at any time throughout the year if it is required for study, display, or if the interim custodians transgress or belittle the name of witchard.
The Prospero Prize is so called after John Dee, and famous mathematician, alchemist and occult philosopher, trusted advisor to Elizabeth Tudor, renaissance Queen of England. He was a well-known witchard, though was able to blend in with mundane society at the time and proved of such worth in a magical advisory capacity, that rumours of his blood lineage were quashed in order for him to continue his work without fear of persecution from the mundanes, helped by his closest confidant The Earl of Oxford. It is said that famous British playwright William Shakespeare based the protagonist of his last play The Tempest on Mr Dee: The Duke of Milan, Prospero.
How to Play
Oxford University of Magic: The Conclave is a partial sandbox game, which means that while there is a general structure to the game with organiser-introduced events and plot, you only take part in plots and storylines that you want to, both as a player and as a character. Attending conference offerings and other activities will provide you with a lot of things to do and is the reason for your character to be attending, though you’re also free to bring in your own stories and adventures. We aim for a collaborative playstyle where everyone is free to choose the kind of experience they’re most interested in, and the environment is there for unexpected play opportunities to unfold. There are some rules to the game, but you will be taught everything you need to know in the briefings on site. If you want to have a look in advance, you can find the main rules in the section Practical Information and guidance on how to play the LARP in the section Preparing for the LARP.
Stay at an authentic British manor house
Yarnton Manor is a beautiful 17th century manor house in Oxford, England. It was built by the famous Spencer family to house the royal monarchs of Britain and their guests. It now operates as a site for Oxford University, as well as hosting functions and tourists. During the event you will sleep in quaint cottages in the manor grounds, and all the meals are provided for you inside the manor. The accommodation has all the usual commodities of a hotel, such as bedsheets and towels, and we are able to accommodate for many different needs, be it a quiet room or a special diet. You can read more about accommodation in the section Yarnton Manor.
Once cast, you’ll be put in touch with other members of your delegations via a Facebook group, a slack channel, or a communication tool that works for each member. It is then up to you as a group to make your society come to life! You have the background of each delegation prewritten to give history, substance, and a working basis for you to expand on the world of your society. You can create interpersonal relations, background events, society secrets, and research projects you’re working towards. There are eight playable delegations for the debut game of Oxford University of Magic: The Conclave =
The College – Oxford University of Magic
“College Reals de l’occulte d’ Oxenforde”
The Oxford University of Magic was founded in 1142, making it one of the oldest seats of magical scholarship in the Western World. It’s alleged Royal Charter, and certainly its vast wealth derives from the treasures given by Empress Matilda in payment for witchards using magic to help her to escape from Oxford castle when besieged there by King Stephen in that same year.
The College remained an institution of magical learning and instruction through to 1542 when the passing of The Witchcraft Act caused it to drop its claims to any royal affiliation, and go underground. From then it continued to teach magic in secret. Classrooms accessed by passing through the gaps in the railings, or the cracks between the paving stones. Hidden beneath Oxford’s gleaming spires, the College prospered and followed its ancient traditions for a further three hundred and thirty-three years. But on May 1st 1875 the entire conflux disappeared. Resisting all attempts to contact or divine its whereabouts, the College, its faculty, and its students were not seen again, a mystery that many sought to unlock, but none succeeded.
But one month ago the College returned. The sudden reappearance caused much excitement across the magical world. This excitement grew even more when they announced they had discovered the location of the Grove of The First Spell – one of the fundamental secrets of magic. The faculty of Oxford University of Magic have invited representatives of the witchard society – academics first and foremost, but other thinkers as well – to the Conclave of Witchards, Sorcerers and Spellcasters. This was once an annual event, but it has not taken place since the disappearance.
For the faculty and students of OUM hardly any time has passed, it is still 1875 and their knowledge of history, culture, and magic is almost 150 years out of time. Their clothing and manners may be Victorian, but these are still Witchards so their attitudes to race, identity, gender, and sexualtiy are unaffected by the time shift and therefore alike to modern Witchards. Many dress in fashions of their day, but a few have adopted some choices from the modern world.
What remains most important to OUM though are the traditions of the university, stretching back to the 12th century, from lavish and complicated toasts, to clapping the faculty to the high table, these rituals have a magic all of their own and the past must not be lost.
“Each formal dinner begins with the guests and students standing up behind their chairs. When the Mystery, Senior Members of the College, and their esteemed guests enter the room, everyone begins a slow handclap and mark time as the top table make their way to their seats. This is followed by a short ritual, led by the Proctor, which protects all those who feast within the hall from witch hunters, faeries, and the bloody flux.”
The mascot animal for the Oxford University of Magic is the Minotaur. Whilst the city of Oxford takes its name from a point at which cattle were able to cross the River, the magical university claims a connection to more mythological times.
The Institute – Nibelungen Institute for Cryptozoological Defence
“Fear is the mother of foresight”
Whilst Nibelungen is an ancient university – dating back to around the 7th century – NICD is a 21st century foundation. The source of their funding is unclear, but it seems as though they receive direct investment from powerful Hexblood families in central Germany.
Their primary area of academic research is into the magical creatures, particularly the more dangerous ones, including, dragons, serpents, and most specifically lycanthropes. Whilst their academic rigour is beyond reproach, NICD takes a practical approach to field research, testing new methods of capture, containment, and defence in real world situations. This methodology has proven effective, yet costly. Many of their research fellows have been injured, and a few have died, yet they are driven to seek new knowledge despite the risks. Even their detractors – who would wish to write them off as little more than bloodthirsty monster hunters – could not help but be impressed with the breakthroughs they have made.
In much of the Witchard world, werewolves are still despised, hated, and feared; lycanthropy is still considered a vile and contagious disease by most. In Germany this led to a werewolf uprising – The Lander Rebellion – which grew to fearsome proportions, as the werewolf leaders known as The White Fangs fought against Witchards. Nibelungen was at the forefront of this fight, and many of the faculty and students still have old scores to settle.
For the researchers of NICD the risks associated with their quest for knowledge informs both their culture and their identity: Scars are worn proudly, and their attitude towards magical creatures – particularly the Were – tends towards the conservative. Perhaps they struggle to assimilate to a refined academic setting; they’re more comfortable stalking wolves through the mountains than learned seminars and polite pastries. Their clothing tends towards active field work rather than hunting knowledge in libraries.
NICD’s heraldic crest is the swan. Of all the school houses of Nibelungen academy, Krabat it is the only one that features on the crest of The Institute, because it represents the defeat of evil.
The Academy – Libussa Academy of Ritual and Performance
“People have so much pain inside them that they’re not even aware of.”
House Libussa at Czocha College of Witchcraft and Wizardry has long been associated with unorthodox creativity. Some 20th century graduates of Libussa went on to fund The Libussa Academy (affectionately known as “The Academy”, or “Rats and Pins”) which specialises in understanding the performative nature of ritual magic and the magical nature of performance. They are a small research group whose methods are radical. They are often found in and around fringe mundane cultures, particularly associated with Cabaret and Performance. Their published work has been rare, yet groundbreaking. The Academy publishes as a collective, so no single author is identified, and their magical workings tend to be ensemble pieces of participatory ritual where everyone and anyone is brought in to take part.
Their recent research has been into the links between identity and magic with members creating new ritual personae for themselves or swapping identities with one another in order to unlock hidden potential.
It is alleged that various mundane musicians, poets and writers have been inducted into the Academy over the years, However despite investigations from the Guardian Order, nothing has ever been proven about this blatant breach of the Traditions.
The Academy has a reputation for louche degeneracy; some of their parties have achieved legendary status with tales of outrage and excess that make even the otherwise progressive witchard society shocked and wide-eyed.
Their dress tends to be flamboyant or formal; they reject clothing conventions, fashions, symmetry.
The Ark – Applied Beastology Research Centre – Bothwell School of Witchcraft
“The world is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.” ~ Bertrand Russell
The Ark has had many names since it was founded by Frances Stuart shortly after Bothwell opened its doors. The primary focus of the group has been in the understanding and husbandry of magical familiars; working with and alongside various animals, both magical and mundane.
Of course most magical research happens beneath the surface and The Ark was no exception, secretly experimenting with hybrids of mundane and magical creatures; mixing elements from both to create new chimera. This all came to a head recently when a series of experiments changed members of the student body as well, creating witchard-animal hybrids. Whether this magic is a form of illusion, transformation, or something far more fundamental is a matter of conjecture.
After the incident with the chimera, the Guardian Order conducted an audit of the centre and its ethics. The Ark has now stated that it holds life to be sacrosanct and that the Chimera Project has been cancelled. As a result of the incident the faculty can sometimes tie themselves into knots about where the line of right and wrong should be drawn. However, when it comes to the study of Beastology, The Ark will surely seek world-changing discoveries rather than sticking to rules imposed upon them from outside.
The Weavers – Innsmouth Centre for Advanced Technomancy (I-CAT)
“Mens et caduceus”
I-CAT is a private land-grant research university in New England, USA. Established in 1865, it has since played a key role in the development of modern technomancy and arithmancy. For these subjects it ranks among the most prestigious academic institutions in the witchard world.
In the 1980s I-CAT sought new investment to fund its research into distributed technomancy, artificial intelligence, and fractal sorcery, raising hundreds of millions of dollars to cover ongoing capital expenditure. The subsequent research led to a number of patents in the mundane world, and some which the centre has sought to enforce upon the Witchard Society.
The financial ownership and control of I-CAT is unknown, but it seems to operate as a profit-making enterprise first and foremost. In terms of faculty and research community, it seeks the best and the brightest magical minds, pays well, and draws on seemingly unlimited sources of income for research.
The faculty and researchers at I-CAT seem to be split between corporate types and hyper-focused hackers on the verge of burnout; from corporate power dressing, to socks with sandals, the sartorial difference between the two extremes of I-CAT are clear for all to see. The former are very concerned with the reputation of the centre, and the ownership of magical knowledge. The latter are concerned with the gaps in the spaces between reality and staying awake long enough to hit their milestones.
Whilst both groups have a reputation for abuse of alchemical reagents to improve performance, something is certainly driving them harder and faster towards success. Is it a desire for knowledge, for profit, or for power?
Of course the mascot for the I-CAT is the Spider – the greatest engineering animal.
The Foundation – Wychwood Foundation for Xenobiological Pathology
“It is not against the rules if no one important complains.”
The Wychwood foundation is yet another research group set up with a trust from old money, but at least this one has its name on the door. The Wychwood family have largely been at war with themselves for hundreds of years, so it is difficult to tell whether they are a progressive force for good or a terminal blight on the Witchard World. If it were clear which of the Wychwood siblings were behind this venture, it may be easier to tell.
Suffice to say that The Foundation is interested in those lifeforms who originate from elsewhere: demons, the undead, and the Fae. This places their research firmly into the area of The Bound Arts, those fields of magic specifically outlawed by the Treaty of Avalon. Clearly the faculty and students of the Foundation are not necromancers and demonologists, nor are they engaged in bargaining with the denizens of Faerie and the Dreaming, for that would be dangerous and illegal. Even so, to ensure the safety of reality, they are heavily moderated, licensed, and observed by representatives of the Guardian Order and even the Regulators. Because of the dangers associated with their work, their research is rarely shared, so this Conclave will be particularly exciting for everyone.
The constant supervision and surveillance seems to make some members of the foundation a little jumpy. Surely this is the reason why they sit with their backs to the wall and often stare – in horror – into the shadows. They are a secretive lot, prone to whispered conversations and bargains made in corners. They tend towards practical, dark coloured clothing because it does not show blood, bile or ectoplasm. You can often spot one from the chalk dust on their shoes, or the forbidden tomes clutched tightly. Sunglasses indoors, and protective amulets are also popular.
The Coven – Midsummer Coven
“We earn the flowers in our hair.”
Born at the dawn of the age of Aquarius, the Midsummer Coven is an outlier in the world of academia because it draws its roots from mundane counterculture. Witchards drawn to the free love and free drugs of the 60s and 70s – psychonauts, and spiritual explorers who claimed to have learned The Truth with a capital T – but then in ways that only Witchards could, set out to prove or disprove those visions revealed in the summer sunshine.
It would be easy to write off the Midsummer Coven as itinerant hippies on one mushroom trip too many, but this opinion would be both dated and ill-advised. As research alchemists and investigators of traditional rites they are second to none. The Midsummer Coven has a political as well as an academic agenda that is to save the world and all life within it, by any means necessary. Their attitudes and methods remain true to their radical roots.
Rumours abound that the founders of the Coven died during an experimental rite. Over the years there have been high profile resignations and subsequent disappearances of senior faculty members which seem to coincide with Solar Eclipses. Surely these were all unhappy coincidences rather than anything more sinister?
The Midsummer Coven does not have a uniform, but if it did then it would be mid-20th century counter culture clothing for faculty, and white clothes with flower crowns for the students.
The Collectors – The Arrok Trantiforus Memorial Library
“Books are the best weapon in the world.”
One of the most contentious issues in the history of inter-conflux relations has been around the ownership of and access to magical knowledge. After all, knowledge is power and if one conflux became too powerful then the relative peace that exists between them could fail. Thus one of the outcomes of The Peace of Phalsbourg in 1801 was the foundation of a library which would collect and protect books, scrolls, grimoires, and other magical writings for and on behalf of all Witchards. Named after a great Witchard scholar, sorcerer, and one-time headmaster of Czocha, the location of the library is hidden; its stacks are protected by wards and seals as strong as any bank vault. To gain access, a witchard writes a letter, care of the Council of Regulators, and they receive an appointment to view their requested research material, accompanied by one or more representatives of the Library.
The Library, of course, has its own research staff, engaged in life-long study of ancient and dangerous texts. They also employ operatives who scour auctions and collections for those works which should not be in mundane hands.
The Library boasts scholars of ancient lore, and also theorists at the very cutting edge of magical thought. They are searching for the source of magic through the written word and the idea. Some would say that they guard their secrets too jealously and that they have become jailers of knowledge rather than its librarians.
The Forbidden Library is not a place of dust and silence. You are likely to encounter theorists passionately discussing how magic works, or you may encounter their Combat Archeologists, drinking tea after a dangerous mission to excavate a lost tomb or to retrieve a book of spells bound in human skin from the locked library of a media tycoon. Whilst the former seem to favour gothic attire, the latter are prone to tweed and combat boots.
The game tells the story of the first meeting in 146 years of The Conclave, an academic international conference hosted by Oxford University of Magic after the sudden reappearance of the Oxfordshire Conflux. Play goes on continuously from Thursday afternoon to Saturday night, though there are areas of the grounds that are off-game where no play will happen so everyone can sleep and opt out of playing. See more in Practical Information.
Thursday: Before the Game Starts
After arriving at the manor, you will have time to find your rooms, pick up your delegation documents, and meet with other players. The event starts with a short welcome and housekeeping speech from the organisers, after which you will be divided into groups for briefings. In these you will learn everything you need to know about the game, practicalities, rules and game mechanics, emotional safety, and the use of magic.
After the briefings there is a Delegation workshop where you will meet everyone in your delegated society and discuss your game, your presentations, and any inter-society drama. After the workshop and briefings, there is free time to get into costume and prepare for the game to start.
The game starts with an introduction speech by the Mystery of Oxford University of Magic, followed by a social mixer called The Conclave Opening Gala. Attendees are encouraged to mix with representatives from other delegations, network, and confront any tension with anyone in order to clear the air before the conference begins on Friday morning. After dinner, there will be some evening activities, workshops and lectures hosted by the university as ice breakers and tantalisers for the conference’s programme to come. There will also be a tour of the manor, and room for any meetings, secret or otherwise, between societies to discuss their presentations over the next few days, tactics for winning The Prospero Prize, and how on earth that person dare show their face around here after what happened last time!
It’s time to get to work. The day starts with the first presentations of The Conclave, which continue until the evening. After dinner there are evening activities hosted by the OUM, which usually take the forms of alchemical experiments, outdoor rituals, tabletop games, and sporting ventures.
The conference continues with a repetition of the presentations from Friday for the bulk of the day. Timetabling of the various offerings at the conference means presentations from different delegations will happen simultaneously, so having an identical programme for Saturday means there’s more chance for players to get to all the presentations they’re interested in attending. Before dinner, societies hold closed meetings to discuss the distribution of points (based on the three tracks as well as other criteria) and make their final choices as to their favourite to win The Prospero Prize.
Finally, the much awaited Conclave Closing Ball starts, and everyone arrives in their evening wear to dance, socialise, and enjoy the night. This is when conflicts may climax, secret rituals and deals are conducted, and maybe even love is in the air. At the end of the night the results of the points game are announced and Merlin’s Ring is awarded to the winning society for one year’s custodianship. The game ends with closing words from the Mystery of Oxford.
After the LARP
After time out, the rest of the night is yours to socialise, relax, unwind, unpack with your fellow players, crew, and organisers – we envisage the afterparty continuing late into the night! The tavern will remain open for a few hours, though players are encouraged to be aware of their emotions when drinking after an intense game. Emotional Support volunteers will be present if you need some one-on-one support. On Sunday morning, there will be optional structured debriefing to process your experiences led by the EmSus. Breakfast will be provided as normal that morning, and accommodation will need to be vacated by 11:00. After the debrief, which will be finished by midday, the volunteers, crew & organisers will continue the pack-down process, and it will be time for players to say their goodbyes and head home.
Before the event you will receive the full practical schedule for the event, as well as the ingame timetable of presentations. Details may vary slightly from run to run, but this is approximately what you can expect to happen:
|11:00||Players start to arrive on site
Signing in, finding rooms, settling down, unpacking
Briefings: Yarnton Manor, rules and game mechanics, emotional safety, spellcasting, delegation workshops
|17:00||Free time to get into costume|
|18:30||LARP time in – The Opening Gala
|21:00||Tour of the manor, evening activities|
|17:30-18:30||Point distribution meetings|
|20:00||The Conclave Closing Ball|
|22:45||The Prospero Prize awarded|
|23:00||LARP time out|
|10:30||Cool down workshop|
|12:30||Players start to leave|
One of the cornerstones of LARPing is the divide between ingame, things happening inside the story, and offgame (also called out of game), things happening in real life. For example, ingame you might despise one of your classmates, while offgame the person playing that character is actually your best friend.
Everything in the game will be made as realistic and as immersive as we can possibly make it to help you stay in character and it feel as authentic as possible. To produce this 360° reality there is of course a lot of work behind the scenes, so if you see something offgame such as mundane electronics or boxes full of scenography, simply ignore it. Staying in character also means we ask you not to use your phone or talk about real life things in ingame areas, as this breaks the immersion for other people who are trying to play.
The LARP continues non-stop from time in on Thursday afternoon to time out on Saturday night to give players the freedom to play at any time, though there will be no programmed or organiser-assisted scenes between 02:00 and 07:00 so everyone can get some sleep. If you ever need to take a break from your character, there are offgame areas you can go to, including a designated offgame room with wash and toilet facilities, the inside of all accommodation cottages, and a small section outside in the grounds. This way we are all keeping the story alive together.
As a rule, there is no stealing of wands. A wand is what a Witchard uses to channel and manifest their magic – they cannot cast magic without it! The taking of another character’s wand is not allowed, in or off game.
During the briefings before the game, you will be shown all fire exits, have any location safety explained, and will be introduced to location staff who will be able to help you.
We are a large group of people in an old, beautiful, authentic manor house. Always follow these rules and take care of yourself, the people around you, and the location:
- The manor has some steep, narrow staircases. Don’t run, and watch your step!
- The manor is very old and many things in it are expensive. Don’t do anything that could damage property that isn’t ours. If something breaks or is damaged, please let the organisers know immediately.
- If you go out in the dark, always take a light source with you.
- Don’t use candles or open fire anywhere without explicit permission from the organisers.
- Don’t bring anything that can damage floors or is hard to clean up. This includes ink, fake blood, and glitter.
We want to create a safe and welcoming environment for you to experience the world of magic and to try out new things. All events and interactions are opt-in, which means you can always choose whether you participate or not. If you as a player are uncomfortable with any situation, you can do something different or leave without having to give an explanation. To support this, there is a set of special phrases and hand signals you will learn in the workshops. You’re always allowed to step out of character for a while and discuss how to improve the situation with your co-players in an offgame area. The players are more important than the story!
If you need to take a break at any time, feel overwhelmed or just want someone to talk to, you’re free to visit the organiser room for some friendly faces, an energising snack or a quiet corner to sit down for a while. There will also be two Emotional Support volunteers [EmSus] available throughout the event who can help you process your experience and feelings, and to help you find solutions if you’re having a hard time playing for any reason. Please note that EmSus are volunteers and are not present in a professional capacity to give counselling or mental health advice – they are a support system to help players get the most out of their experience and discuss their feelings and emotions in a safe, warm, and confidential environment. For many people, LARP can be an emotional and intense experience, but there will always be support available if you need it.
Supporting Characters, also known as Non-Player Characters [NPCs], are short-term characters meant to improve your experience, played by volunteers. There will be a dedicated volunteer and crew team playing various roles throughout the event. They may be university custodians taking care of the grounds, magical creatures hidden behind trees, famous travelling lecturers, or mysterious strangers in the tavern. Engaging with them is optional, so you can always choose not to interact with them if you don’t want to.
Each run of Oxford University of Magic: The Conclave will have a unique cast of predetermined Supporting Characters with their own plot-lines that you can choose to get involved in, as well as volunteers able to fill in the role of someone you want to see at the game – you will be able to request your own scenes that may require assistance from a volunteer playing a one-off character as well as a Supporting Character. You can also submit requests during the game if you’d like one of the supporting characters to appear again for another scene.
Volunteers will also be playing ‘Beadles’, who are servants of the university (see more in History of Oxford University of Magic). Practically, Beadles are there to help organisers with physical tasks such as setting up rooms, cleaning, moving furniture, serving players, assisting with presentations, and being messengers between the organiser team, players, crew, and volunteers in an immersive way. Players can interact with them if they wish, though they are there to do a job. For the spreading of rumours, secrets, and other ingame messages, there will be a way to do this, tailor-made to each run, via supporting characters who will represent a further delegation invited to The Conclave.
As we have a limited amount of time and helpers, we will prioritise requests made within the submission period for scene request forms. In some cases it may be possible to use your idea for a single scene into a longer plot line, or use an existing supporting character in the game instead of featuring a new one-off one. You can also request for your character to receive letters from their family members and other people outside of the conference.
Spirits of Oxford
These Supporting Characters are easily recognisable in brown robes: they are spirits bound to serve the manor. In a practical sense, they are an easy way for the organisers and volunteers to move around the manor to do all kinds of practical tasks without standing out. Spirits of Oxford are immune to all magic, cannot be communicated with, and cannot be moved physically. Sometimes they might also stand in a doorway, which means the area beyond can’t be used right now. If you see a Spirit of Oxford in a brown robe, simply ignore it and let it do its job.
To capture all the magical people and experiences at The Conclave, we have a dedicated photography and video team for the purposes of documenting the experience for players, and for future marketing purposes. By participating you agree to being photographed and filmed. During the event there will also be formal group photos taken of all the Delegations. During the ball you also have an opportunity for a personal portrait or group shot. The photographers are very discreet and wear witchard clothing or Spirit of Oxford robes to blend in, so you can simply ignore them entirely. You’re always allowed to ask them to leave a situation that’s private, and on the flip-side you can always let them know a cool thing is about to happen so they can be ready to shoot it!
This also means that during the event you don’t need to take photos of your own. Please don’t use mobile phones, cameras or other mundane devices in ingame areas, as this breaks the immersion for other players. If you’d like a photo, ask!
Equality and Inclusivity
In the mundane (non-magical) society, the reality is as it is in our world: some countries have reached a reasonably high level of equality, while in others marginalised identities have it extremely rough. Witchard Society is different though: magical ability can surface in anyone, and that makes everyone equal regardless of their looks, body, sexuality, gender, beliefs or ethnicity. The thought of a non-male Dean of the university being any less skilled than a male one is considered ridiculous, and there are numerous well-known and powerful witchards of colour. No one will raise an eyebrow at two young men going to the Conclave Closing Ball together, and genderqueer and transgender individuals are common and wholly accepted without question.
Of course, this does not mean there is no inequality or bullying in the witchard world. Magical lineage means a lot, and many old hexborn families (people with magical powers) will always look down on mundaneborns. There is also a lot of prejudice and fear around those infected with lycanthropy, and being outed as a werewolf will certainly get you disgusted looks from some. However, mundane concepts such as racism, homophobia, transphobia, body shaming, ageism, or ableism have no place in the magical society. Mundanes are often considered quite barbaric for having such a limited world view, and whilst Oxford University of Magic is located in its original 17th century building, its inhabitants in the Oxford Conflux are far more progressive than the local mundane population.
We want Oxford University of Magic: The Conclave to be a magical experience for all genders, identities, and backgrounds and therefore we ask that you do not play on any real world prejudices. We encourage playing on dark and difficult themes, but within the context of research, academia, and character drama. You are also free to play any gender or identity you want as long as you do it respectfully, and all characters that are pre-written will be gender-neutral.
We take great pride in the growing diversity of our community and production team, and Witchards is expressly in support of human rights and freedoms. We oppose any infringements on these rights, and engage in freedom of speech for personal expression, as well as take action in opposition to any persecution of “non-normative” groups.
This event is not political or religious, but we respect your right to your beliefs and convictions. To be clear, we stand with and actively strive to educate ourselves about equality and marginalised groups, including but not limited to feminism, people of colour, and LGBTQIA+. We do not accept racists, neo-nazis, or people active in hate speech or xenophobic transgressions. We reserve the right to deny them access to our events.
Yarnton Manor is located outside the city of Oxford, in Oxfordshire, United Kingdom. The trip takes less than two hours drive or train from central London, all London airports, Bristol airport, and Birmingham airport. Oxford is well connected by train to major cities across the UK, as well as via National Rail/MegaBus coaches. You can look for travel companions in the participants’ Facebook group and carpool/journey together. The closest train station is Oxford and is 15-20 minutes away by car/taxi. There is car parking available at the site, though this isn’t limitless. If you’re planning on driving, please let the organisers know so we can allocate a car parking space to you, and please consider offering any spare seats to fellow Witchards to help with space, travel nerves, and the environment!
As the manor is an authentic Grade II listed building, there are accessibility situations that come with the territory of old-fashioned, genuine buildings from that era. Approximately half of the rooms that will be used in the game are upstairs, including the dining room and the tavern, and there is no lift facility. The main staircase is made up of two sets of 12 steps, and every room has seating availability. The organiser room and ‘backstage’ areas are all on ground floor. There are ground floor, no-step rooms available in the accommodation provision which will be reserved for those who ask for them. The grounds are mainly grass, stone pathways, with some gravel paths in the grounds as well. All rooms in the building have light fixtures, including the hallways. English is the spoken language of the event, both ingame and offgame, though there may be organisers, crew, and volunteers who are able to speak other languages: at each game we will provide a list of languages that can be used for clarity translation purposes offgame, for emotional support, and in cases of emergencies. If you have any questions, concerns, or accessibility requirements about the location or the game then please get in touch – there are hopefully many ways we can welcome you to play with us and put in the right accessibility provisions for everybody to enjoy a safe and stress-free game.
Rooms & Sleeping
Players sleep mostly in 2-6 person rooms in 2-3 room cottages and houses in the grounds of the manor. A few single and double rooms are reserved for participants with specific health or accessibility needs. All accommodation is offgame inside.
We will ask for your needs and preferences in advance via a Player Form, and the sleeping arrangements will be published before the event in order to accommodate for possible last minute changes. After that it’s perfectly alright to switch roommates (as long as everyone involved agrees), but please inform the organisers if you do so.
Food will be provided every day at long tables set up in The Long Hall. Meals catered for are Thursday evening, three meals on Friday & Saturday, and breakfast on Sunday. We can cater for vegetarian, vegan, omnivorous, gluten-free, and lactose-free diets. If you have any allergies, please mention it when you fill out your Player Form and we will do our best to accommodate you and make this a safe place for you to be.
The manor also has a tavern serving all kinds of enchanted drinks. It’s a place to relax, socialise, do some light reading, and enjoy a glass of your favourite beverage. The tavern accepts Pound Sterling cash only. Please note that being visibly drunk is not tolerated at the event, and tavern staff will refuse to sell alcohol to people who they deem need cutting off. This is an 18+ event, which is the legal alcohol consumption age in the UK, though you may be required to show ID if the game is audited by licensors.
How to Make Magic
Casting spells happens simply by waving your wand and saying a magical-sounding word. There are no spell lists or specific gestures for you to memorise: if you make it look and sound like a spell, it is a spell. If the spell isn’t self-explanatory, it’s also a good idea to accompany it with an in-character explanation of what you’re trying to do: “I shall turn you to stone. Petrifio!” There are no stats involved in spellcasting, anyone of any background or stature can cast any level of spell – after all, everyone there is an academic professional of some sort with extensive magical know-how!
The target of a spell always gets to choose how to interpret the effect of the spell cast at them. It might work just as the spell-caster intended, only work for a little while, do something completely unintentional, or fail to work at all. You will learn how this works in practice in the pre-game workshops.
A magical duel is a competition in which two witchards take turns casting spells at each other. Whilst this game is not a combat larp, there may be two characters who just can’t find another way to solve their differences, so must prove their worth in the magical back and forth of spell-casting! When your opponent casts an attacking spell, you can either take the hit, block, dodge, counter or otherwise react to it, and then cast your own spell. You are not allowed to cast the same spell twice, so if you can’t think of any new spells, you lose.
“Laugh it up fool! Amuso!”
“Hahaha! Normalis! Ahh, that’s better. Now, fall asleep! Dormirium!”
“What?! Eh, nooo. Zzzzzzzz.”
There are no rules for how much damage you do or how many spells you can take, as the point is to create interesting scenes and drama. The point is to make a good story and roleplay an exciting scene, so it’s totally ok to lose in a duel! It can be a good idea to have a quick offgame chat with your opponent about how you would like your duel to go, if applicable. In any case, make it grand and fun to watch!
You will come across all kinds of potions and magical liquids. In general most potions will be safe to drink, but please still exercise caution. All potions should be labelled with its offgame ingredients so people can make informed choices. If you create your own potions, only use ingredients that are safe to drink and label your bottles properly so that other people are able to act out the effects of the potions. Please be careful of drinking potions if you’re unsure of their contents, especially if you have allergies. It’s always allowed to just fake drinking for any reason. Safety comes first!
Artefacts and Other Kinds of Magic
All enchanted items and other sources of magic follow the same principle. The creator of the item, rune or spell is in charge of conveying what they want it to do, and the target decides the actual effect. So, if you give someone a protective charm, make sure they know what it is supposed to do, and then it is up to the wearer whether it works or not. It might even have some totally unexpected effect – after its mysterious reappearance after nearly 150 years, who knows if magic always works the way it should in the Oxford conflux!
Fighting and Death
Sometimes a bit of fighting or getting hurt can be a great source of drama. Physical brawls are rare in the Witchard Society, since they’re considered uncivilised and mundane, though it does happen. Magic duels, on the other hand, are a much more popular way to settle disputes! Either way, just make sure you leave your opponent time to react and make it look cool rather than realistic.
When it comes to injuries, you have full control over what happens to you. If you get hit by an aggressive spell, you decide how badly hurt you are. Like in any spellcasting, the target always decides what happens. Getting hurt can make for a great story though, and recovering happens quickly in the magical world. After a dramatic fight you could also even visit the volunteer team to help give you some make-up bruises or a nasty scar.
As this game is centred around magic, academia, secrets and networking, death is not a central theme of the LARP. Your character can’t die unless you as a player decide so, and no matter how dire the situation, you can always choose to get severely hurt and create play out of it until you are healed. Plots involving death are generally discouraged, as they are not thematic with the game we’re playing, are very hard to make opt-in, and may trigger painful memories for other players. Therefore, if you wish to play on death, talk about it carefully with the organisers and your co-players in advance.
Preparing for the LARP
Characters and Casting
Every participant in Oxford University of Magic: The Conclave has a character, the witchard persona they will portray at the game. Before the event you will be asked for your preferences for which Delegation you’d prefer via a ranking system and will endeavour to give you one of your top 3 choices. You’ll also be asked what kind of character type you envisage playing, for example you might want to play an academic achiever, a technomancy expert, an under-achieving chancer, a villain, or an activist. A small description of the types of characters you’d be interested in playing will help us to cast you properly into the right delegations, and alongside players whose ideas complement yours. The organisers will then assign the delegations in a way that maintains a balance between different character groups, trying to prioritise things that are the most important to you.
Once cast, you’ll be able to start inputting your character details in the template character sheet on Crucible on our website. Crucible is the name given to the online casting tool where you’ll be able to write and edit your character sheet, after having made your casting choices. All characters will be reviewed by organisers to ensure thematic clarity, they are in line with the overall vision and existing lore, and don’t include themes that are against our inclusivity policy or deemed problematic. They may also offer feedback and ideas for how to improve your character before you settle on a final character sheet.
The character sheet template consists of the following parts:
- Background – This is your character’s personal history, telling you where the character comes from and how they became the person they are today.
- Ambitions and Setbacks – Each character has a positive and negative side. The conflict between these creates a good starting point for a meaningful inner conflict for the character and gives you options for where to take their story. What motivates your character to do well? How do they deal with criticism and rivalry? What are your character’s ambitions for the conference, and for the wider magical world? Do they have secrets from their past or negative personality traits that could cause tension or conflict with others? Use these sides of your character to help guide how you might react to certain situations, and how they’re motivated outside of their society.
- You & Your Society – What’s the relationship between your character and the society they’re in? Is being a member of this particular magical society a dream come true? Or is this your parents’ ambition for you and you want no part in it? Do you actually have a job offer from a rival delegation, or do you enjoy your work and how important you are to the framework of the society? These questions will help you to think a bit deeper and create more history and personality for your character.
- Ideas for Relations – Examples of interesting relationships your character could have. You can look for such people either before the event in the Facebook groups or during the workshops on site.
Relations between the characters are created by the players, either before or during the game. Some potential relations may be suggested by the organisers based on the character you write, but ultimately who you interact with and choose to tell stories with is up to you. Before the game there will be groups on Facebook for both your delegation you’re cast into, as well as a participants group for everyone coming to the event where you can meet your fellow players in advance. There will also be a Looking For Relations page, where you’ll be invited to show off your character and what sort of play you’re looking for so that others can come in with some suggestions of relations they may want with you. Equally it’s a place for you to seek out that maternal figure you want to complain to, that academic rival from a specific society to scowl at, or a love interest to blush at and ask to the Conclave Closing Ball. All additional character development and relation-making is purely optional, but it can greatly enrich your experience.
Remember that there is no wrong way to play out your witchard persona. Each character sheet is just a base, on top of which you will build a unique person during your pregame and game, and only you know how they think and act. It’s always alright to take your character in a new direction, even during the LARP, if you find out what you’d planned isn’t working out for you. Your character is your own, and we hope you have fun with it!
If you don’t want to plan any interpersonal relationships with other players/characters before the event, there will be time for finding relations during the workshops before the game starts.
People at The Conclave are as varied as can be, with the invited delegations being from across the globe and from all sorts of cultural backgrounds and areas of magic. The delegation you are cast as will have a big impact on the type of character you choose to play, and there is lots of background info on the history and mystery of each of them under Delegations. It’s also a good idea to work with other players cast in your delegation as you’ll be playing lots with them during the game, and spending time before creating your presentations and conference offerings. An eclectic but themed group of people from each delegation will present the best opportunities for the game, so you can play on both being a united front as a society, but also have internal personal conflicts and differences.
You won’t just be playing with your delegation members though, so think beyond your cast society about the type of person and personalities you would find the most fun and drama from playing. At any game there are archetypes of characters present, and thinking of a personality archetype you would enjoy to play on might be a good starting point from which to choose what type of character you’ll play: The Lover, The Jester, The Knight, The Mother, The Lawyer etc.
For Oxford University of Magic: The Conclave you will write your own character sheet containing the background and personality of the person you will portray at the game. All characters have to be accepted by the organisers in order to make sure they’re in the right vein and themes of the game and to identify any additions or retractions that need to be made for playability, but as long as you stay within the limits of the lore, you have a ton of possibilities. Developing an interesting character that works well in a cooperative game like this can be challenging though, so the guidelines below will help you in the process. If you don’t want to write your own character from scratch and would like help from the organiser team with ideas where to start, or even a whole character written for you, please indicate as such during the casting process, and we will work with you to create a character you’ll enjoy playing.
– Pay attention to the setting
The main themes of the debut game of Oxford University of Magic: The Conclave are academia, professional rivalry, secrets, magical progress, and personal conflict & resolution. Figuring out where your character fits in within those themes is a good starting point. Are they excited to be invited to The Conclave, find it a distraction from their work, or actively dislike the archaic and outdated celebration of traditional academia? Are they avoiding their old workplace society that’s also been invited this year, looking forward to seeing old friends, or have they been preparing for this invitation to showcase their skills and research for what feels like forever? Sometimes the best ideas are quite simple – if your concept is too far out there, you may have trouble not only conveying your vision to others but also having them engage with it. Fitting your character to the overall vision ensures you’re all playing the same game. The organisers will be on hand before and during the game to help you make your character fit into the world, and be enjoyable and exciting for you to play.
– Leave space for conflicts and growth
When creating your character’s background, it’s tempting to add a bit too much. You don’t have to be a mysterious orphan adopted by a rich and powerful family who’s also a duelling champion, an award-winning herbologist, and secretly a werewolf. What makes the most memorable characters stand out in any story are their rich personalities and human flaws, not their supernatural traits. They are interesting because of their passion for the things they care about, the struggles they have to face and their relatable weaknesses. What is the story you want to tell with this character?
– Villains need friends too
We know high society academia isn’t always only about sharing research and amicably networking with head nodding and gentle sips of sparkling wine. The Conclave is no stranger to conflict between blood line purists, arrogant scientists, extreme activists, and power hungry villains who’ll step on anyone to get to the top. It can be a lot of fun to play a character like this, but it also comes with challenges. Bad witchards still exist within the context of their conflux, their society delegation, and the conference that they’ve been invited to. They will have their own struggles, goals and weaknesses. A villain with a complex personality, perhaps even redeeming qualities, is so much more enjoyable to play and interact with than someone who just wants to see the world burn. Consent is also extremely important with any sort of negative play: don’t target anyone you’re not sure is okay with it.
Playing an unlikable character also puts you at risk of being left on your own, if you don’t plan for it in advance. Make sure you still have friends or allies you can count on, since being faced with constant contempt can be very tiring to play in the long run. The same goes for quiet or antisocial characters: it’s no fun brooding all alone, so make sure you have friends who want to drag you on adventures with them. Regardless of whether you’re playing a protagonist, an antagonist, or someone on the grey spectrum of morality, make sure your character isn’t alone with their cause, story, or internal struggles.
You’re not telling your character’s story alone, and other people’s characters can be a great inspiration. When other players start introducing their character concepts, look for possible relation hooks: maybe someone needs a sibling, a rival or a love interest? Think about what kind of relations you seek, and what can you offer others: Do you owe someone a favour? Does someone know your secret? Do you want to have a secret job opportunity with a rival delegation or want to sell your society’s secrets? Whatever you’re looking for, don’t be afraid to reach out to others – we’re all here to create stories together.
There are many different kinds of LARPs and LARPing cultures, each with their own official and unspoken rules. This section explains how to play Oxford University of Magic: The Conclave, and how to aim for the best possible experience together.
– Cooperation, not competition
Witchard Society games are based on the Nordic Larp tradition, in which the focus is on drama and co-creation, and Oxford University of Magic: The Conclave is no different. This is not a game to be won, but instead we all aim to support each other, share the spotlight and create great adventures together. Sometimes it’s absolutely worth it to lose a duel or have your research debunked – overcoming challenges makes for even better stories!
Oxford University of Magic is mostly a sandbox LARP, which means the university and the conference are a framework within which you can create your own stories. There is no grand overarching essential plot line or a dramatic final battle, but instead countless personal stories co-created by everybody. Go to presentations, attend meetings and social networking events, get to know new people, get involved! You can freely explore different parts of the game and leave out those you’re not interested in. Everything has been built to provide you as many opportunities as possible for the game you want to play, and to give a new take on how we roleplay magic and witchards – It’s actually impossible to experience it all at once anyway though, so don’t be afraid of missing out on something!
– Opt in
Everything at Witchard Society games works on the opt in principle, which means you’re free to choose what you want to participate in. Evening social meetings and other activities–and even the programmed presentations – are there for you as a suggested schedule, but you are never obligated to attend any of them. If you as a player don’t want to do something, you don’t have to, even if it’s something you’d previously agreed/organised to do. Opt in also means that your own plots should invite others, but not demand their attention. Choose the kind of adventure that suits you the best, and let the others do the same.
– Fantastic before plausible
At Oxford University of Magic, the experiences and magic come first, even if it sometimes means stretching the believable reality a little. If your character, as a conservationist, vehemently disagrees with dissection, and are present in a workshop that centres on a werewolf autopsy to discover the cause of death, don’t stop everyone else from joining in that activity. Perhaps instead look over their shoulders, tut, and write in your journal all the things that are wrong with the practise, or exclaim your disgust and join in a different activity, or allow yourself to be brought into the fold by another colleague who can show you new ways to approach the moral dilemma. Our goal is to tell great stories together, and not halt play for other characters.
– Play each other up
Sometimes your character is very different from your normal self or has skills you as a player don’t have. With the help of your co-players and crew, however, you can make anything come true! Play in a way that emphasises the traits and abilities of other characters, and they will do the same to you – we call this “play to lift.” Ask the bookworm for help with your academic paper, be intimidated by the big, bad bully, applaud the singer performing their research paper. We want the game to be immersive, and for all players to have their characters be perceived and interacted with as authentically as possible, and for everyone to be able to be the hero of their own story – plus it’s just good manners and sportsmanship!
– Communicate and ask for help
While we usually aim to keep up the immersion at all times, sometimes it is also wise to step out of the game and talk with your co-player/s about how you want to continue. Especially if you’re playing on intense themes such as romance or violence, it’s important to respect the boundaries of everyone involved and make sure you’re aiming for a similar story. “Offgame, how do you want to play this?” is always a valid and wise question. You can also always visit the organiser room for guidance if you don’t know what to do – we’re here to help.
– Actions have consequences
We want Oxford University of Magic to be a believable world, and conference within the setting, where your character’s choices carry weight. Good deeds and magical excellence will naturally be rewarded but, no matter how skilled or influential your character is, they should expect to be called out for their transgressions. If you create a situation or play a character that causes tensions with other characters ingame, you might find yourself at the dangerous end of a wand or being dressed down for your unacceptable behaviour at such a prestigious conference. There will be mechanics explained on the onsite workshops that can help players both escalate and de-escalate situations they may have found themselves in or chose to be in, and if you find a tension you’ve created isn’t working for you anymore there is room in the game for you to be able to plausibly back-peddle for the safety of yourself and others: If it doesn’t work, change it.
Sometimes the character you chose to play turns out to be less enjoyable than you thought or you feel like a plotline has come to a dead-end. In that situation you’re always allowed to change things up. Maybe your character can get enchanted to act differently or receive help from an NPC? At Oxford University of Magic, playability comes before plausibility and you’re always encouraged to steer towards the kind of game you enjoy. Once again, ask your co-players or organisers for help and you will surely find answers!
Once players have been cast and their characters finalised, organisers will get in touch with players to add secrets to your backstory and game. This might be that your character is part of a secret organisation with other members present at The Conclave, or it could be that a jilted lover or academic rival from your past will be present at the conference. This could also be in the form of a mysterious elite club, a pact that may fall apart, a potential new job opportunity, or anything really! We aim to add as much potential plot and drama for you to choose to play on so you can get the most from your experience, and it’s then up to you how much or little you want to seek out that particular piece of storytelling. There will also be additional information given to you in your Delegation briefing at the manor before the event starts, so that you and your peers can have some group secrets or plot to play with if you so wish. Of course, as mentioned before, you are welcome to bring your own ideas and plot to the game that you’ve discussed with other players or formulated yourself in order to have the game you want – it’s a good idea to let organisers know before the game via email or through a scene request form if you’ll need any support in materialising your ideas.
Each delegation will be responsible for hosting two presentations. As mentioned before in the Game Structure section, the conference timetable is repeated so that people have the chance to go to all the presentations they want to – this means that each of your presentations will happen twice. To be clear, that’s presenting four times, each offering presented twice.
These presentations can take any form you like, including but not limited to: hands-on workshops, lectures, small group seminar discussions, demonstrations, performances, and group activities. Whether it be a seance to talk to a theorist who’s passed on, a dissection of an infected dragon heart, a discussion on the merits of flying brooms vs flying carpets, a grounds search for a rare magical creature, or a round-table to try and unravel the secrets of a yet unsolved mysterious disappearance – the opportunities are endless and only limited by your imagination!
Not all members of the delegation have to present at the same time, you as a society can group members for different presentations, or there may be some members who don’t present at all and instead their strengths are more suited to organisation and preparation. As long as the delegation has the presentations prepared and then delivers them, there are no rules regarding how you organise yourself according to preference, comfort, and strengths. We encourage players to also prepare a contingency for if things don’t go according to plan – Remember that you’re not obliged to do anything you don’t want to do and sometimes things happen during the game that make changes unavoidable. Have an idea of how to tackle a member not being present during a workshop they had planned to be involved in, and how to continue if a prop isn’t available due to it still being used by another presentation. These sorts of provisions will help ease any stress during the game if things don’t go to plan, and ease any pressure on players feeling ‘obligated’ to perform instead of taking care of themselves.
The game is organised with it in mind that players are enthusiastic about participating in presentations, as well as attending those from other societies, and are therefore considering the preparation and presentation of workshops as part of the game and the excitement of playing! We do understand things change, and that everyone has different qualities to bring to the table so, with our help, it is up to you to draw on each other’s abilities, strengths, and sense of willingness and camaraderie.
Once cast, you’ll be put in touch with other members of your delegations via a Facebook group, a slack channel, or a communication tool that works for each member. It is then up to you as a group to make your society come to life! You have the background of each delegation prewritten to give history, substance, and a working basis for you to expand on the world of your society. You can create interpersonal relations, background events, society secrets, and research projects you’re working towards.
Organisers will work with each delegation to give support both practically and creatively for the presentations, and offer any advice and suggestions to realise your presentations in a fully-rounded way. We will be able to provide, as much as is reasonable: NPCs, equipment, suitable rooming and room configuration, decorations, furnishings, and any special requests regarding timetabling or using outdoor locations. We will have a budget to use for society presentations, and do not expect players to be out of pocket in organising these presentations, though any extras that are outside the playability of the presentations will not be provided, such as souvenir gifts or costuming not intended to remain in the possession of the organisers after the game, etc. We are happy to help provide bespoke props if we don’t already have a suitable one from our stores, as long as it is possible within our budget, and feasible for use in future Witchard events. We will endeavour to be as supportive and collaborative as possible, and for players to feel excited and invigorated to provide these presentations and help shape the story and world of The Conclave, so please keep in regular contact so we can provide you with all the help you need, and we’re all on the same page. There will be more guidance on how to create your presentations after casting, and also during the preparation process.
There will be a deadline before the event for presentations to be ‘secure’ and this will mean that after that deadline we may not be able to accommodate changes to the ‘lesson plans’ due to timetabling conflicts, budget, availability of crew, and organisers’ time in the run up to the event. We will always endeavour to give you the support you need though, so please still do contact us after this deadline if needs be so we can reach a solution to any snags together.
Witchards dress in any imaginable and unimaginable way, mixing styles from times and cultures past, present, and yet to be. The Conclave is considered a formal occasion, though that doesn’t not mean that mundane formal wear is called for – witchards consider all manner of dress formal if carried with the air of such! You may choose to wear overalls if you’re planning on getting stuck in with hands-on dirty work, a professional waistcoat and ruffled shirt to give the air of regality when hosting a lecture, or anything that best presents your character’s personality that is comfortable, practical, and exciting.
Obviously mundane clothes such as rock’n’roll t-shirts are generally frowned upon, but then again a mundaneborn might still wear them as a deliberate fashion choice. There is also no such thing as masculine or feminine wardrobe – you wear whatever feels right to you. To top it all off, any outfit can be complemented with accessories such as a fancy hat or items using the colours associated with your magical society.
If you want, you can also bring a more festive outfit for the Conclave Closing Ball. There is no dress code, and on the ball night you can see everything from everyday wear to glamorous gowns and suits. Some just change into a fancier shirt or put on a fun party dress, some come in their research sweats, and some get creative in various ways. In any case, don’t stress about what to wear, it’s the culmination of a weekend’s hard work, so it’s the party itself that counts!
There are photographs of previous Witchard events on our website you can look through for inspiration, and other players will be more than happy to share advice & pictures, and answer any questions! As always, please get in touch with us if you’d like some advice, or also have any practical questions regarding suitability and appropriateness of specific costuming choices.
- A bed to sleep in with a pillow, blanket and linens.
- Three meals each day.
- Conference name badge.
- Souvenir event badge.
What you have to bring:
- Your wand. Without it, most magic will be impossible!
- Somewhere good to store your wand is advisable too, for when you’re not using it. Perhaps an inside pocket, a wand holster, a tailored belt loop etc
- Warm clothes and layers included in your costuming, as the manor can be cold at times. Some of the conference may be held outdoors (weather permitting!) and a wonderfully brisk ‘turn about the lawn’ are common.
- Good walking shoes. The manor does have stairs, and the grounds are sometimes uneven outside. If you want to bring nicer shoes, save them for the ball!
- Bug repellant spray, antihistamines, and bug bite cream in case you want to spend some time outdoors.
- Pens, quills, notebooks etc. for taking notes during presentations, and a bag to carry them in. Note that ink bottles are not allowed at the game.
- Personal hygiene supplies and other necessities (medicine, toothbrush, shampoo).
- Passport, if you’re traveling internationally, and other travel documents.
- Pound Sterling for the tavern – we can’t promise to have the facility to accept cards, though the rest of the UK is essentially contactless. Note that pound sterling is the only currency accepted in the UK, which includes Scottish and Northern Irish pounds as well as Bank of England.
Optional things that may be nice to have
- Fancy clothing for the Conclave Closing Ball.
- Scarves, mittens, socks, night gowns. More warm clothes for day and night. UK weather can be unpredictable, especially in the winter months!
- Hats! Hats are very fashionable in Witchard Society.
- Water bottle and a personal cup, glass, or goblet for the tavern (if you want something special).
- Potion bottles, magical items, and other mystical things.
- Any props or decorations you may need for your presentations
- Sleeping mask and earplugs, if you’re a light sleeper. Most accommodation is shared.
- Snacks and drinks, if you feel like you might need extra energy between meals.
- Lantern, torch, or other magical light source.
- Watch, pocket watch or other timepiece that is not your mobile phone for telling time.
- Power adapter, if you don’t use UK standard equipment.
History of Oxford University of Magic
Magic is real in our world. A witchard is someone capable of such magic, from spells and incantations to making magical potions and artefacts. It is also a gender neutral term for witches, wizards and other spellcasters. In everyday speech, the ability to do magic is called hexblood, even though it doesn’t actually have anything to do with your blood. While it is much more probable for a witchard child to be born to witchard parents, hexblood can surface in anyone regardless of your background. The opposite is also possible, and sometimes witchard parents give birth to a dud, a child with no magical ability at all.
What makes hexblood awaken in a person has baffled magical researchers for centuries, but the only thing certain is that there will always be somewhat of a divide between the hexborn and the mundaneborn. Hexism, the ideology that a long magical lineage defines your value as a witchard, is still quite common in many confluxes despite the rise of many pro-mundaneborn initiatives. In addition, there are of course those born to one magical and one mundane parent, and the experiences of mixborn children can vary wildly depending on how strict the local secrecy and anti-mundane laws are.
Oxford University of Magic
For centuries, Oxford University of Magic at Yarnton Manor was a home to magical study. They say it was built into impossible dimensions, no one was sure quite how many rooms there really were! Stories abounded that some classrooms were only accessible through the secret entrances hidden around Oxford, or through other magical portals. Fables suggested that within the college bounds a door might open where no door existed before. Records show that some rooms were used for teaching and experimentation, others for feasting, socialising, or quiet contemplation. It was a place steeped in history, mystery, and secrets, but in 1875 it became even more of a puzzle when it simply vanished.
The Conflux has been lost for over a hundred years, but one month ago it reappeared. This unexpected return has caused much excitement across the magical world. This excitement grew even more when the faculty of the Oxford University of Magic announced they had discovered the location of the Grove of The First Spell – one of the fundamental secrets of magic. The faculty have invited prominent communities and organisations from across the Witchard world to send delegates – academics first and foremost, but other thinkers as well – to the first Conclave of Witchards, Sorcerers and Spellcasters to be held in over a century
A conflux is a high concentration of magic, mostly bound to a geographical place. Because of the high concentration of magic Witchards tend to congregate in the area. When people live together, ways of organising certain aspects of life are implemented and a community is formed. The Conflux is one magical community. They have their own identities, politics, and structures. Many Confluxes have grown up around ancient magical sites, Yarnton – the home of the College – is no exception. Five thousand years ago a neolithic stone circle marked this location as a place of power for over five thousand years. These stone circles – used for magical transport and rituals – were known in Old English as eard-stapa or land-steppers, and they mark the conflux as a central hub for travel across the magical world. Some say that fragments of the standing stones can still be found in the foundations of the College. They give the name to the place Eardantún – the home of Eard – or, in later English, Yarnton.
When the Empress Matilda was besieged in Oxford Castle by the army of King Stephen in the winter of 1142 it was the young Witchard, Lydia of Yarnton, who came to her aid The contemporary chronicler of the Gesta Stephani wrote, “I have never read of another woman so luckily rescued from so many mortal foes and from the threat of dangers so great.” They noted there was a thick (but unseasonably early) snow and that the river had frozen. Henry of Huntingdon, another contemporary, suggests that the escapees “wore white cloaks.” The history of the College, however, reveals the true story: that three great spells were worked by the witchards, one to allow the Empress to descend unharmed from the tower of the castle, a second to change the weather and to freeze the river so she could cross, and a third to make her and her knights invisible, and to leave no footprints in the snow. For this service Lydia was rewarded with seven treasures, and a charter.
Lydia of Yarnton was the founder and the first Mystery of the College. This is the original title given to the Head of the faculty and most senior Witchard of the university. Like most traditions associated with the OUM, it still exists to this day. Other senior members of the College include the Chamberlain (who is in charge of the college finances), The Dean (who is nominally in charge of the staff), and The Proctor (who is in charge of discipline)
Six of the Treasures are gone now, sold to build and enlarge the series of great houses which encompass the College. The latest was erected in 1611 making use of contemporary breakthroughs in magical knowledge to build in many dimensions. The Seventh Treasure – the Ring of Eluned the Fortunate – was said to belong once to Merlin. Alas, it’s stone is missing, and without this inset gem its power to grant invisibility is lost.
On May 1st 1875 the entire conflux disappeared. Resisting all attempts to contact or divine its whereabouts, the College, its faculty, and its students were not seen again until it reappeared one month ago. The reason for this disappearance is a mystery that many sought to unlock, but none have succeeded.
The servants of the College – known as Beadles – are famous for the hats they wear indoors, and their wildly different attitudes towards members of the college, students, and visitors. Ranging from obsequious politeness to downright rudeness. Whilst they appear to be human, some suggestion around the Regency was that they had the manners of faerie folk and it would be ill-advised to owe any of them a favour.
Debut Game 03-05/12/2021 – The Team
Lead Producer – Holly Hatton Baldwin
Assistant Producer – Sabina Barleaza
NPC Coordinator – Vicky Eyles
Content Writers – CJ Gahagan, Simon Brind (Avalon Larp Studio), Holly Hatton Baldwin
CEO – Christopher Sandberg
CTO – Thomas Mertz
Additional Credits – Karolina Fairfax, Laura Sirola, Alice De Ste Croix, Brent Rombouts